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The Book of Husbandry

The Book of Husbandry
Title: The Book of Husbandry
Release Date: 2018-07-07
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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There were many quite different printings of this Book ofHusbandry. As the editor of this printing, Rev. Walter Skeat, notesin his Introduction: “The present volume contains a careful reprintof Berthelet’s edition of 1534” collated throughout “with thecurious edition of 1598” that was authored by “I. R.”—his actualname is unknown.

This “careful reprint” retains all the spelling variations andinconsistencies of those original editions, and so does this etext.The Notes and Sidenotes produced by Skeat are of course in modern(1882) English. He has inserted some corrections to the reprinted text;these are shown in [brackets]. Obvious typographical errors and punctuation errorsin his Notes and Sidenotes have been corrected after careful comparison withother occurrences within the text and consultation of externalsources.

Some minor changes are listed at the end of the book.

Footnote anchors are denoted by [number], and the footnotes have beenplaced at the end of each major section of the book.

The line numbering on each section of the reprinted 1534 text has beenretained and is shown as a number (4, 8, 12 etc) on the left side ofthe etext. Original line-breaks in the 1534 text have not been retained.

>The line numbering on each section of the reprinted 1534 text has beenretained and is shown as a number (4, 8, 12 etc) on the right side of the etext.Original line-breaks in the 1534 text have not been retained.

The cover image was created by the transcriberand is placed in the public domain.





Book of Husbandry,



Reprinted from the Edition of 1534,






A plough






The Author’s Prologue1
The Table (which see)3
The Book of Husbandry9
Glossarial Index149

[Pg vii]


One question of chief interest respecting the volume hereprinted is—who was the author? We know that his namewas “Mayster Fitzherbarde” (see p. 125), and the questionthat has to be settled is simply this—may we identify himwith Sir Anthony Fitzherbert, judge of the Common Pleas,the author of the Grand Abridgment of the Common Law,the New Natura Brevium, and other legal works?

The question has been frequently discussed, and, as far asI have been able to discover, the more usual verdict of thecritics is in favour of the supposed identity; and certainly allthe evidence tends very strongly in that direction, as will, Ithink, presently appear.

Indeed, when we come to investigate the grounds on whichthe objections to the usually received theory rest, they appearto be exceedingly trivial; nor have I been very successfulin discovering the opposed arguments. Bohn’s edition ofLowndes’ Bibliographer’s Manual merely tells us that “thetreatises on Husbandry and Surveying are by some attributedto the famous lawyer Sir Anthony Fitzherbert, by others tohis brother John Fitzherbert.”

In the Catalogue of the Huth Library, we find this note:“The Rev. Joseph Hunter was the first person to point outthat the author of this work [Fitzherbert’s Husbandry] andthe book on Surveying was a different person from the judgeof the same name.” It will be at once observed that this[viii]note is practically worthless, from the absence of the reference.After considerable search, I have been unable todiscover where Hunter’s statement is to be found, so that thenature of his objections can only be guessed at.

In Walter Harte’s Essays on Husbandry (ii. 77) we read—“HowFitzherbert could be a practitioner of the art ofagriculture for 40 years, as he himself says in 1534, is prettyextraordinary. I suppose it was his country amusement inthe periodical recesses between the terms.” We are herepresented with a definite objection, grounded, as is alleged,upon the author’s own words; and it is most probable thatHarte is here stating the objection which has weighed moststrongly with those who (like Hunter) have objected to thecurrent opinion. The answer to the objection is, I think,not a little remarkable, viz. that the alleged statement is notthe author’s at all. By turning to p. 125, it will be seen thatit was Thomas Berthelet the printer who said that the author“had exercysed husbandry, with greate experyence, xl. years.”But the author’s own statement, on p. 124, is differentlyworded; and the difference is material. He says: “and, astouchynge the poyntes of husbandry, and of other artyclesconteyned in this present boke, I wyll not saye that it is thebeste waye and wyll serue beste in all places, but I saye itis the best way that euer I coude proue by experyence, thewhiche haue ben an housholder this xl. yeres and more, andhaue assaied many and dyuers wayes, and done my dyligenceto proue by experyence which shuld be the beste waye.” Themore we weigh these words, the more we see a divergencebetween them and the construction which might readily beput upon the words of Berthelet; a construction which, in allprobability, Berthelet did not specially intend. Any readerwho hastily glances at Berthelet’s statement would probablydeduce from it that the author was a farmer merely, who had[ix]had forty years’ experience in farming. But this is not whatwe should deduce from the more careful statement of theauthor. We should rather notice these points.

1. The author does not speak of husbandry only, but ofother points. The other points are the breeding of horses(not a necessary part of a farmer’s business), the selling ofwood and timber, grafting of trees, a long discourse uponprodigality, remarks upon gaming, a discussion of “what isriches,” and a treatise upon practical religion, illustrated byLatin quotations from the fathers, and occupying no smallportion of the work. This is not the work of a practicalfarmer, in the narrow acceptation of the term, meaningthereby one who farms to live; but it is clearly the work ofa country gentleman, rich in horses and in timber, acquaintedwith the extravagant mode of life often adopted by thewealthy, and at the same time given to scholarly pursuitsand to learned and devout reading. Indeed, the prominencegiven to religious teaching can hardly fail to surprisea reader who expects to find in the volume nothing morethan hints upon practical agriculture. One chapter has avery suggestive heading, viz. “A lesson made in Englyssheverses, that a gentylmans seruaunte shall forget none of hisgere in his inne behynde hym” (p. 7). This is obviously thecomposition of a gentleman himself, and of one accustomedto take long journeys upon horseback, and to stay at variousinns on the way.[1]

2. Again he says, “it is the best way that euer I coudeproue by experyence, the whiche ... haue assaied manyand dyuers wayes, and done my dyligence to proue byexperyence which shuld be the beste waye.” Certainly thisis not the language of one who farmed for profit, but of[x]the experimental farmer, the man who could afford to lose ifthings went wrong, one to whom farming was an amusementand a recreation, and who delighted in trying various modesthat he might benefit those who, unlike himself, could notafford to try any way but that which had long been known.

3. We must note the language in which he describes himself.He does not say that he had “exercised husbandry”for forty years, but that he had “been a householder” duringthat period. The two things are widely different. His knowledgeof agriculture was, so to speak, accidental; his realemployment had been to manage a household, or, as weshould rather now say, to “keep house.” This, again, naturallyassigns to him the status of a country gentleman, whochose to superintend everything for himself, and to gain apractical acquaintance with everything upon his estate, viz.his lands, his cattle, his horses, his bees, his trees, his felledtimber, and the rest; not forgetting his duties as a man ofrank in setting a good example, discouraging waste, givingattention to prayer and almsgiving, and to his necessarystudies. “He that can rede and vnderstande latyne, let hymtake his booke in his hande, and looke stedfastely vppon thesame thynge that he readeth and seeth, that is no trouble tohym,” etc. (p. 115). Are we to suppose that it could be saidgenerally, of farmers in the time of Henry VIII., that Latinwas “no trouble to them”? If so, things must have greatlychanged.

I have spoken of the above matter at some length, becauseI much suspect that the words used by Berthelet are the verywords which have biassed, entirely in the wrong direction,the minds of such critics as have found a difficulty wherelittle exists. It ought to be particularly borne in mind thatBerthelet’s expression, though likely to mislead now, was notcalculated to do so at the time, when the authorship of the[xi]book was doubtless well known. And we shall see presentlythat Berthelet himself entirely believed Sir Anthony to havebeen the author of this Book on Husbandry.

Another objection that has been raised is founded upon theapparent strangeness of the title “Mayster Fitz-herbarde” asapplied to a judge. The answer is most direct and explicit,viz. that the printer who uses this title did so wittingly, forhe is the very man who helps us to identify our author withthe great lawyer. It is therefore simply impossible that hecould have seen any incongruity in it, and any objectionfounded upon it must be wholly futile. The title of masterwas used in those days very differently to what it is now.Foxe, in his Actes and Monuments, ed. 1583, p. 1770, tells ushow “maister Latymer” encouraged “maister Ridley,” whenboth were at the stake; and, chancing to open Holinshed’sHistory (ed. 1808, iii. 754), I find a discourse between Wolseyand Sir William Kingston, Constable of the Tower, in whichthe latter is called “master Kingston” throughout.

I cannot find that there is any reason for assigning thecomposition of the Book of Husbandry to John Fitzherbert,Sir Anthony’s brother. It is a mere guess, founded onlyupon the knowledge that Sir Anthony had such a brother. Itlooks as though the critics who wish to deprive Sir Anthonyof the honour of the authorship think they must concedesomewhat, and therefore suggest his brother’s name by wayof compensation.

We have no proof that John Fitzherbert ever wrote anything,whilst Sir Anthony was a well-known author. Allexperience shows that a man who writes one book is likelyto write another.

When we leave these vague surmises and come to considerthe direct evidence, nearly all difficulties cease. And first, asto external evidence.


The author of the Book of Husbandry was also author ofthe Book of Surveying, as has always been seen and acknowledged.[2]The first piece of distinct evidence on the subjectis the statement of Thomas Berthelet. He prefixed someverses to Pynson’s edition of the Book of Surveying (1523),addressing the reader as follows:

“  This worthy man / nobly hath done his payne

I meane hym / that these sayde bokes[3] dyd deuyse.

He sheweth to husbandes / in right fruteful wyse

The manyfolde good thynges / in brefe sentence

Whiche he hath well proued / by long experyence.

¶  And this[4] I leaue hym / in his good wyll and mynde

That he beareth / vnto the publyke weale.

Wolde god noblemen / coude in their hertes fynde

After such forme / for the cōmons helth to deale;

It is a true token / of hyghe loue and zeale

Whan he so delyteth / and taketh pleasure

By his busy labour / mens welth to procure.”

This cannot well be mistaken. It is obvious that Bertheletbelieved the author to be a nobleman, one who

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